Frosh LB making college adjustment

Freshman LB Robert Russell, a 6-0 230-pounder from New Orleans, LA, has been on the Ole Miss campus for a month working in the offseason program. After an adjustment period, he's starting to catch on to the demands of college football. Read about it inside.

You hear it every year from at least three or four freshmen football players when they first step on the Ole Miss campus, and you know the rest are thinking it.

"This isn't high school," they say.

There is always a "culture shock" to go through.

It's been no different for rookie Linebacker Robert Russell, a 6-0 230-pounder from L.B. Landry High School in New Orleans, LA.

"When I first got here, the work load and the pace surprised me. Everything is 10 times as fast and as much as it was in high school - the athletes are much faster, the pace is much faster, the intensity is much higher and the workouts are much more demanding," said the soft-spoken Russell, an honor roll student in high school.

But as is the case with all freshmen - who make the grade, eventually they get used to it.

"I'm still not in tune as much as the veterans, but I'm getting there," he continued. "I'm getting more and more comfortable mentally. Physically, I've still got more work to do with my conditioning, but once you get your mind right and realize what you have to do, the rest is just a matter of getting it done."

Russell is among several signees expected to shore up a thin linebacking corps. Quentin Taylor, Dustin Fortson, LeRon King, Rogers Loche and Russell - now that Wallace Bates has been dismissed from the team - are all in the same boat.

They all know the situation - the Rebs need a couple of them to emerge in August and play as true freshmen.

"Knowing what I know now, that (early playing time) seems like a great accomplishment, but I want to be one of those guys. The team needs some of us to step to the front. My goal is to be one of those," the former all-stater, who registered 168 tackles and 11 QB sacks his senior season at Landry, explained. "I've gotten to know Quentin real well. We are teamed with each other in workouts. He's a very good athlete. Dustin, LeRon and Rogers have just gotten here, but they all appear to be really good athletes too. No matter who comes forward in the fall, we all feel we'll have a good linebacker group for several years."

Right now, Robert is also going through volunteer passing drills with the skill players. He's playing middle linebacker behind Patrick Willis in the drills.

"I can play middle or outside, but right now my reps are in the middle. You can learn a lot from a guy like Patrick. Man, he's the real deal," Robert smiled. "In those passing drills is when you can feel the speed of the game on this level. When you are in a pass drop and one of these wide receivers jets across the middle, you know you better be on your game. It opened my eyes - I really didn't expect players to be this fast, but I'm getting settled in now. Coming to first semester of summer school was a wise decision for me."

When asked what he needs to work on the most, he takes a wide approach.

"Everything," he stated. "This level is all about bigger, stronger, faster and smarter. And you can never have too much of any of it."

Robert is getting some good guidance from some of the upperclassmen and some old friends.

"Michael Wallace and BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) are guys I know. They are helping me get adjusted to campus life and football," he closed. "But Kelvin (Robinson) and Patrick have taken me under their wings as a brother. They treat me like a little brother. Kelvin will pick me up for class and he talks to me all the time about the roadblocks of being a freshman - getting homesick, the adjustment to college classes, everything.

"Pat helps me on the field. He's always looking over my shoulder and helping me with learning the defensive calls and with technique. They have both been great to me."

Robert said he has dedicated himself to trying to crack the playing rotation, but he's not going to let it slow him down if he's not one of the chosen ones at LB.

"I think I can help this team early, but if not I will help this team a lot in the long run," he closed.

The hard part - the early adjustment - is behind him.

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